Councillors refused planning permission to turn a former children’s home on Huntingtower Road into a hotel yesterday, after concerns were raised about it overlooking a primary school.
The application to convert The Willows into a 20-room hotel, had been recommended for approval by South Kesteven District Council’s planning officers. However after a lengthy debate, members of the development control committee voted to refuse the plans, citing as reasons the impact on privacy and amenity of the area, as well as its design which was described as ‘dominant, oppressive and visually intrusive’.
Headteacher of Huntingtower Community Primary Academy, Mark Anderson, attended the meeting and said: “The proposal to redevelop the site is welcomed, but there have been some concerns around the site which as educational providers we are duty bound to explore, and ensure that we are protecting the children in our care.”
Of particular concern was a new building to the rear of the site, proposed for residential apartments and a hotel office, which would have views into classrooms. Mr Anderson said the school had requested this building be moved to another part of the site, or made single-storey, but that they had received no response to this suggestion.
Agent for the applicants, Mike Sibthorp, said: “The building is where it is because when we had the first pre-application discussions the planning officer considered that was the better location, on that side of the site, because of residential properties on the other side.”
Mr Sibthorp also said that they had received interest from local companies needing to accommodate staff and contractors on a short term basis, with the hotel aimed at business users.
He added: “The concern that child safety would somehow be threatened by potential occupiers is highly speculative and without any form of evidence.”
This was challenged by Councillor Charmaine Morgan, who proposed the plans’ refusal. “Children are entitled in a classroom environment to the same degree of privacy as may be afforded to an adult in their own homes,” she said. “As an authority responsible for safeguarding we must therefore protect that privacy.
Surprise that no objections had been made by the Highways Authority was also expressed by Coun Adam Stokes, who said: “I don’t agree fundamentally at all with Highways on this one. They obviously have not visited Huntingtower Road, which is a rat run - a single track road because of all the parked cars. The traffic in and out of this development will cause major issues.”
Coun Stokes had requested the application be brought before the committee due to the issue of overlooking. After a debate about whether more opaque windows could be installed, he said: “I still don’t think it’s going to be mitigated even with frosted glass.” In addition he questioned why in a travel plan submitted as part of the application rooms were described as ‘bedsits’ as well as ‘business rooms’.
The proposal to refuse the application won by eight votes to four.